Whenever I hear the term “leaky gut”, it makes me cringe. After all, who wants their guts leaking out? The vast majority of migraineurs are not aware of the close link between their stomachs and migraine episodes. Most migraines, in my opinion, develop as a result of what goes on in our digestive system. If you have an unhealthy digestive system, you are likely to suffer from a variety of ailments, not the least of which is repeated migraine attacks. Therefore it is important to understand whether a “leaky gut” could be the cause of your migraines.
What is “leaky gut”?
This link from the Harvard Medical School is fairly concise and does a good job explaining the term. But, imagine a sewer system that flows through your city. It is surrounded by concrete. If the concrete develops one or more cracks, eventually the filthy water will seep through and contaminate clean water, in addition to the surroundings. If the sewage water accumulates in one area and festers, it becomes toxic and starts building combustible gases.
How does it occur?
Leaky gut occurs when the lining in your intestines has developed larger cavities and undigested foods are allowed to enter the bloodstream. One of the most important functions of your intestine is to take in valuable nutrients and discard harmful substances. These substances can be various toxins, yeast, and other forms of waste that should not get into your blood supply. The intestine protects us from different kinds of diseases and essentially houses our body’s immune system. If certain substances are allowed to enter the bloodstream, your body’s immune system will be compromised. It does not matter what you eat, as particles and molecules that should not enter the bloodstream get through. The longer this is allowed to occur, the higher the likelihood that your gut gets contaminated.
It is quite possible that your leaky gut is a result of low stomach acid or hypochlorhydria.
What happens once problematic bacteria are in the wrong part of your gut?
Your immune system responds, after your liver has failed to clear the vast majority of these offending culprits. However, since the leak is so vast and more and more culprits are spewing in, your immune system fails in taking care of all of the issues and the impurities get absorbed into tissue and inflame. Your immune system cannot cope with all of the different areas that are getting inflamed and, eventually, some areas become ignored. In these specific areas, there is accumulation and your body’s immune system weakens. This can then lead to various ailments including irritable bowel syndrome (“IBS”), fibromyalgia, and above all else, migraines.
OK, that’s all great but how do I know if the condition is behind my migraine episodes?
If you suffer from migraines and get a reaction to most things you put into your stomach, you could be suffering from leaky gut. If you find that one particular food affects you one day but does not affect you on the next, it could likely be a positive sign for leaky gut as well. Once the impurities build up, you get a migraine episode no matter what you put into your stomach. Do you often feel constipated and/or experience diarrhea? In my case, I developed gas all of the time after ingesting anything. I would belch from sunup to sundown, and in some cases, I would throw up in my mouth. I would wake to drink a glass of water, only to start belching immediately. It felt as if I had stuff sitting at the top of my throat constantly.
Can leaky gut be cured?
Absolutely! It takes time, patience, and discipline but your stomach will heal. You should always first consult with your health care professional in terms of your specific circumstances to identify leaky gut. Your case may be different from that of someone else. The following is what I did in specific sequence to aleviate leaky gut.
1. Eliminated gluten completely from my diet
This is much harder than it sounds, as most things we consume today contain gluten. However, it should be noted that all grains are off limits and anything that could potentially be cross-contaminated.
2. Took a comprehensive food intolerance test
Before I took this test, and after I started keeping a food journal, I found it odd that I would develop a migraine 48 hours (two days) after consuming an offending food. When I mentioned this to a number of doctors, the answer was always that if I didn’t develop an allergic reaction within 3 hours of a meal, it was not a food allergy.
Most medical practitioners will tell you to take a regular food allergy test which is done by pricking your arm or back with 50 or so different foods known to cause allergies. These tests are not built to find food intolerance and do not work for someone with chronic migraines who may be suffering from leaky gut. In other worsd, it can take up to 72 hours for a migraine to develop as the food slowly gets digested and any toxin build-up gets high enough to trigger a migraine. A food intolerance test will display which specific foods you have mild, moderate, or severe reactions to.
3. Eliminated most refined sugars and cut down on the amount of carbohydrates that I consume
Sugars, and carbohydrates that turn into sugars, feed the bad bacteria in your stomach. By cutting down on sugars, you are essentially starving the bad bacteria while allowing the good bacteria to grow.
4. Started taking probiotic supplements
With leaky gut, your stomach flora is out of balance and the bad bacteria, in many cases, take over. By taking high-quality probiotics, you start building up the good bacteria in your stomach. A word of caution though; not all probiotics are created equally. You need to research the best one for your needs.
It is worth remembering that if you don’t cut back on sugars, your effort will be wasted. You need to reduce the bad bacteria by cutting off sugars and carbohydrates. Then you can rebuild the good bacteria with probiotics.
Leaky Gut – Conclusion
In terms of curing leaky gut, we should be aware that changes will not be instantaneous and remember that, in all likelihood, the condition has been developing for years. It will take time for the stomach to heal.